When Did Humans Start Creating Art? - Prehistoric Cave Art

Updated on November 24, 2018
artsofthetimes profile image

Ancient art and architecture isn't only for historians, but for people like us who’ve always been interested in anything olden and periodic.

Recent archaeological discoveries appear to confirm that prehistoric cave art began between 290,000BC and 700,000BC, a period known as the Lower Palaeolithic Era.

The inhabitants at the time, the Cro-Magnon people (early homo-sapiens), were the first civilized ancestors of the modern European. They apparently made their entry into Europe from Africa or Asia, through a slow and extended migration that probably spanned over thousands of years.

These were the times most of us know as the Stone Age, but the Stone Age consisted of three different periods:

  1. Palaeolithic period
  2. Mesolithic period
  3. Neolithic period

Stone Age art, also known as Prehistoric art, refers to any ‘work of art’ created during these eras and include artworks like cave paintings, rock carvings and engravings, crude miniature carvings, and prehistoric artistic expressions like cupules which represent one of the oldest and most prevalent forms of prehistoric art forms. The cultural significance of cupules still remains a mystery.

Most prehistoric art in the form of cave paintings and miniature carvings have been discovered mainly in Europe.

Cave Art of Prehistoric Man
Cave Art of Prehistoric Man

The Main Forms of Prehistoric Cave Art

The inhabitants created their art in all types of rock surfaces - in caves, rock shelters, and cliffs. The core form of prehistoric art is stone, rock art, and cave art and includes:

  • Petroglyphs – Prehistoric rock carvings and engravings as can be found in the Blombos Cave Engravings
  • Eggshell Engravings – Crosshatching patterns scratched on Ostrich eggshells
  • Rock Engravings – Rock engravings in abstract signs and circle symbols
  • Pictographs – Cave murals developed in form of sketches, hand stencils, handprints, or painted signs, and geometric symbols.
  • Megaliths – Strategic arrangements of standing rocks or stones as can be found at Stonehenge or Newgrange.

Prehistoric man’s sketches were made with rudimentary hand tools carved by them. Line drawings were bold, and sketches were painted with roots and plants extracts. Their art adorned their dwellings, the cave walls and ceilings.

The skills they possessed must have demanded some form of rudimentary training and high mental concentration.

Picture Paintings in Prehistoric Caves

The earliest humans’ drawings were basically an outline of their chosen subjects and were devoid of any details or niceties. Later, simple perspectives and foreshortening (drawings that appeared shorter than reality to create a 3-dimensional effect) evolved, and there is even some evidence of compositions of form groupings showing, for example, a group or herd of animals 'on the move'.

Archaeologists also discovered un-decipherable motifs which many scholars of art historians believe may have been the caveman's attempt at hieroglyphic (symbols) inscriptions.

Drawings and sketches were representations of plants, animals, human form, and the human anatomy in a variety of figurative and abstract images. Pictures mostly represent hunting scenes of bison, horses, reindeer, cattle, aurochs, and mammoths.

Other creatures drawn and painted in prehistoric caves were lions, ox, wolves, foxes, hare, seals, fish, birds and reptiles. However, there are no landscape paintings, neither were there any elements of nature like rivers, waterfalls, and mountains. Perhaps because of the skills required for painting landscape themes.

Researchers from the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island “have identified more than 20 signs, all painted in the same style, that appear time and again in different shelters”. These are created with simple brushstrokes in shapes like circles, semi-circles, triangles and straight lines.

Other forms of cave art drawings include crosshatches, cruciform, flabelliform, cordiform, ovals, penniform, positive and negative hands, quadrangles, scalariform, serpentiform, spirals, and zigzags.

Colour pigments were sourced locally by Stone Age painters and were mostly sourced from minerals like kaolin, iron oxide, manganese, and limestone, plants, and roots found in the earth. Several combinations of these pigments were mixed to create their desired colours. For instance, clay ochre provided them with three basic colours - varieties of red, brown, and yellow. The caveman got his black paint from either charcoal or manganese dioxide and red from iron oxide.

What Painting Tools and Methods Did Stone Age Artists Use?

All prehistoric artists used a variety of painting methods to create their art. Initially, their fingers and palms served as painting tools. Eventually, they switched to using moss, animal hair, and vegetable fibres.

They ‘spray-painted’ blowing pigments through reeds and hollowed animal (birds or small animals) bones. The caveman also used foreshortening and chiaroscuro (the use of strong contrasts between light and dark) techniques.

The Advancement of Prehistoric Artists

As their society became advanced, prehistoric cave ‘artists’ began to create a series of extraordinary paintings of animals, hunting scenes and other graphic illustrations of their everyday life.

Prehistoric artworks, as indicated by the discoveries of their creations, can be aptly described as preceding history, or prehistory. It has been suggested that art creations of the caveman may have commenced during a period of thousands of years, while man evolved from the animal state to the human state.

This has sparked the belief that the expression of creativity is instinctive in humans, and therefore the origin of the art of 'interior design' goes way back to the dawn of human civilization, and therefore is an integral part of human needs.

And even though the discoveries of the early man have been found mostly in Europe, there is the probability that human existence and development was happening at the same time in regions like Africa, Asia, and probably in the Americas.

History did not 'begin' until men had the ability to record events in some sort of written or symbolic form, but the prehistoric man lived and flourished thousands of years before any form of art history was documented.

What is certain is that the earliest decipherable inscriptions of history do not pre-date the prehistoric cave art era of the 37th century B.C.

Sources:

Interior Design and Decoration by Sherrill Whiton

Encyclopaedia of Stone Age Art

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 artsofthetimes

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • artsofthetimes profile imageAUTHOR

        artsofthetimes 

        6 years ago

        Thank you so much Jenubouka, i appreciate your nice comments.

        Wishing you a merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.

        GodBless

      • profile image

        jenubouka 

        6 years ago

        I love the simplicity of the drawings, and yet they also offer a complexity at the same time with their lines and the restricted mediums at hand.

        It is inspiring to view these and think about our ancestor's way of life, what they enjoyed, and how they expressed themselves.

        Thank you, okay, now this is my favorite piece, (for now)

      • artsofthetimes profile imageAUTHOR

        artsofthetimes 

        6 years ago

        That is so interesting WH I wonder how old those would be. Must go and read up on that. Thanks for sharing the information.

        And thanks for the visit.

        Blessings

      • WesternHistory profile image

        WesternHistory 

        6 years ago from California

        Thanks for an interesting hub. In the American west there are quite a few sites where Native Americans created petroglyphs in caves and on the sides of cliffs. Two good sites in New Mexico are the Petroglyph National Monument on the west side of Albuquerque and at Bandelier National Monument northwest of Santa Fe and just a few miles south of Los Alamos.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)